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How To Talk To Animals

January, 2014



Anna Breytenbach can communicate with animals through her thoughts. Watch this video excerpt from a full-length documentary called The Animal Communicator, shot at a wildlife sanctuary in South Africa. It documents a deadly snarling leopard being transformed into a relaxed cat after a visit from Anna.

Anna delivers a solution like a therapist would, translating the leopard's woes into human language so the keepers can understand what's going on.

Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, Breytenbach holds a degree in Psychology, Economics and Marketing from the University of Cape Town. Today she works with both domestic animals and wildlife, and runs workshops around southern Africa, Europe and the US. Ann's work includes working with wild dolphins and whales, elephant and lion management, leading animal communication safaris in Botswana, interspecies projects at organic farms, and giving numerous public talks. www.animalspirit.org.


Animal Whispering may seem to be a modern method of gently communicating with animals but it’s actually a kinder, gentler form of inter-species communication with thousands of years of history to back it up. Though the 6 amazing animal whisperers profiled here aren’t the only ones using both the term and the methods, their skill, notoriety and knack for self-promotion have enabled them to be heard over the roar of the crowd.


“How can I help?”, asks Cesar Millan as soon as he walks into the room. The 42-year-old former illegal immigrant may be the most well-known of all animal whisperers, primarily due to his listeners of choice: dogs.

Even with 65 million potential “patients” in the United States alone, however, it’s taken Millan’s powerful yet persuasive personality to build Dog Whispering into a 7-figure-grossing corporation dedicated to making every dog owner an unchallenged leader of the pack in his own home.

Cesar Millan learned how to work with animals on his grandfather’s farm in Sinaloa, Mexico, where he soon acquired the nickname El Perrero (“The Dog Boy”) for the natural way he interacted with canines. Nowadays he espouses his philosophy of dog management on his hit TV show, Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan. By stressing the principles of exercise, discipline and affection (in that order), Millan teaches the owners of even the most recalcitrant dogs that they can assume and maintain a leadership role that benefits both owners and pets.


Though many people first heard the term “horse whisperer” through a 1998 film starring Robert Redford and Scarlett Johansson, so-called “horse whisperers” date back to the early 19th century. Daniel “Horse-Whisperer” Sullivan kept his methods secret but onlookers reported he would stand face to face with his equine subjects and would appear to be whispering to them.What Sullivan and later followers were practicing was Natural Horsemanship, a gentle way of training horses dating back at least to the era of Classical Greece.

Practitioners of natural horsemanship avoid techniques involving punishment that inculcate fear in the horse being trained. Instead, subtle body language and a system of behavioral negative reinforcement are applied, with the goal being to forge a willing partnership with the horse.One of the foremost Horse Whisperers of the modern era is Monty Roberts, author of the best-selling book The Man Who Listens to Horses. Roberts first observed wild mustangs in his early teens, noting they seemed to express themselves through a discernible type of body language. His autobiography, first published in 1996, has been translated into over a dozen languages and has sold over 5 million copies worldwide.


You may not have heard of Ken Globus, but the bespectacled gent who became known as the Bird Whisperer tamed thousands of antisocial avians over the past 25+ years.

Ken learned how to deal with birds at his parents’ pet store in Inglewood, California, where almost all of the birds were caught in the wild. By literally throwing out the books on bird-raising and using his own innate sensitivity, he eventually established a new way of taming even the most un-handleable birds.


Cristina Zenato has been referred to as “the First Lady of Shark Diving” but doesn’t Shark Whisperer sound way cooler? I mean, whispering underwater is tough enough as it is without a Great White Shark trying to horn in on the conversation… and just try finding ol’ Mac the Knife’s ear in the first place!

Inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame in March of 2011, Cristina Zenato has been a tireless advocate for the welfare of sharks and is the Diving Supervisor, Dive Instructor and Shark Dive professional at UNEXSO (UNderwater EXplorers SOciety) on Grand Bahama Island. Cristina has learned the delicate procedure of tonic immobility from her mentor, Ben Rose, and has used the technique to remove hooks from the mouths of oft-voracious Caribbean Reef sharks.


“My, what big ears you have!”, said Little Red Riding Hood to the Big Bad Wolf. Maybe if Li’l Red had applied Shaun Ellis’ wolf whispering methodology and talked to the ears, not the hand, maybe the wolf wouldn't have snacked on Grandma.

Ellis, also known as The Wolfman, takes “hands-on” interaction to the highest level possible without actually becoming a member of a wolfpack… oh wait, he’s done that too.Quite a different way to interact with wolves is conducted at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, where captive wolf packs have been maintained since 1989.

Wolves at the IWC are socialized to humans at a very early age and any physical human interaction is limited to a selected group of Wolf Care staff, enabling easier veterinary checks and excellent wolf behavior viewing opportunities from the center’s glass windows.IWC Wolf Curator Lori Schmidt is seen above being greeted by either Shadow or Malik, the Center’s two 11-year-old Arctic Wolves who together make up the current Retired Pack. The mission of the IWC is “teaching the world about wolves” but it’s really the wolves who do the teaching; the human staff’s task is to interpret their unique world-view. It seems that in this case, the wolves are the ones doing the “whispering”.

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